From chapter 6
Once there, he stood still, barely daring to breathe as he looked around what he could see of the shoreline. For once he thanked God for his Sentinel senses as his sight was able to compensate for the darkness and he could see no sign of Blair along the bank.
Off to his right his ears caught the sound of a twig cracking and he turned in that direction, his hearing ranging out toward the sound, filtering out the night sounds of birds and small animals scurrying through the brush. He homed in on what sounded like someone breathing jerkily, as if they were trying to hold back sobs and he extended his hearing even more trying to narrow down the exact place it was coming from. There was a sudden cacophony of sound as if he was being enveloped in it and then everything faded away…
There was a faint buzzing in his ears and Jim tried to raise a hand to swat the annoyance away. Hi hand was restrained however, and before he could even think about trying to free it he became aware of the warm sensation of something rubbing soothingly up and down his arm. The buzzing gradually took the form of a voice and Jim concentrated on making out the words.
“Come on, Jim, please. I really have no idea what I’m supposed to do here. I hadn’t gotten that far into that dissertation last night when I looked at it. If you don’t wake up soon, I guess I’m gonna have to hogtie you and drag you back to the cabin like a deer.”
Jim couldn’t help it. He laughed.
“Oh man, thank god.” Blair’s voice was overwhelmingly relieved and Jim turned and grabbed his shoulders and pulled him in for a hug, still laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” Blair asked, pushing Jim away.
“Because coming out of a zone out and hearing you babbling away like your old self is one of the best things I’ve ever heard,” Jim replied. “Are you okay? I woke up and you were gone. I was worried sick when I couldn’t find you.” He gave Blair a searching Sentinel once over. There were a few scratches on Blair’s face but other than that he seemed unharmed.
“I’m sorry.” Blair flushed and swallowed hard. “I had this crazy dream and it freaked me out. I guess I panicked. I remember waking up and getting out of bed, feeling like I was being chased by this spotted jaguar. Next thing I knew I was out here standing at the edge of the river. I heard the jaguar growl and I headed for the woods. It was so real, man. Then I heard you calling for me and I just knew I was safer with you than out there in the woods on my own with that jaguar so I came back to the lakeshore and found you standing here, looking like you’d been turned to stone or something.”
Jim winced as Blair spoke. “There’s a reason for that nightmare,” he said. “I’ll tell you about it when we get back to the cabin.” He turned and ushered Blair ahead of him up the track, draping Blair’s jacket over his shoulders as they walked. “How did you know what to do?” he asked curiously. “To bring me out of the zone out.”
“I didn’t,” Blair said, carefully following the beam of the flashlight Jim shone ahead of them along the path. “Well, I don’t think I did. I just thought that maybe it had to do with your senses and I had a feeling that if I could get you to feel me touching your arm and hearing my voice you might wake up.”
“You were right,” Jim said. “Maybe being a guide to a sentinel is as much about innate instinct as it is about learning how to be one. Incacha did pass the way of the shaman onto you and I guess he wouldn’t do that for just anyone who’d read few how to articles on being a guide.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Blair said. “But you’re going to explain it all to me, right?”
Jim reached a hand forward and clasped Blair’s shoulder firmly, gave it a little jiggle. “Right,” he said.
It was another half hour before they were settled back in the living room in the cabin, hot coffee steaming in mugs on the coffee table between them. Jim had insisted on cleaning the scrapes on Blair’s face and hands, caused by Blair’s headlong, panicked run through the trees after his nightmare.
“It wasn’t really a nightmare,” Jim began. “What you saw in your dream that made you take off.”
“Felt like one to me,” Blair said, shuddering a little in recollection.
“It was more of a memory. A memory of something that happened about six months before you left.” Jim sighed, picked up his coffee and sipped at it while he gathered his thoughts. Nothing less than total honesty would do now. He knew that. If telling the truth now meant Blair left him again then he’d let the chips fall where they may. It was refusing to be honest with himself that had caused Blair to leave the first time. He knew that now. “Okay, I’ll make this as short as I can but it’s still going to need you to suspend your disbelief a little,” Jim said.
Blair nodded, sipping at his own coffee. He put it down on the table, the slight rattle as the mug landed making Jim aware that Blair was still shaking. He looked down at his own hands, noticed the tightness of his clenched hands resting on his knees, blew out a breath and focused on consciously relaxing. “All right. It started with us stumbling across the hold up of a grocery store downtown. I shot the guy, killed him before he was able to kill his hostage but he also managed to shoot me—“ Jim held up a hand as Blair’s eyes went wide with horror. “It was just a flesh wound, nothing too serious. It was what I saw and heard in that store that started everything off.”
Blair was watching him intently so Jim kept going.
“I saw a spotted jaguar in the back room of the store. It wasn’t real. It was more of a vision, a representation of another Sentinel in the vicinity.”
“Like a spirit animal,” Blair put in, shrugging when Jim looked at him inquiringly. “Don’t ask me how I know that. I just do.”
“Yeah, it was her spirit animal. Mine’s a black jaguar, yours is a wolf.”
“A wolf? I’ve got one too?” Blair sounded skeptical but Jim decided if he had to keep stopping to answer Blair’s questions they’d be here for a week so he said, “Hold the questions till the end, okay, Chief? Let me lay it out for you in a fairly chronological order first.”
Jim waved away his apology then picked up his coffee and drained the mug while he got his train of thought back. “Okay, I was on sick leave and apparently I was a little grumpy so you went in to do some stuff at the PD and while you were there you happened to run into a woman who appeared to be having the same symptoms I was when you met me. Her name was-“
“Alex… Alex Barnes,” Blair murmured. He looked down at his hands twisted again into tight fists on his knees then raised stricken eyes to Jim’s. “I came home, tried to tell you about her but you blew me off. I kept working with her, decided not to tell you about each other and then we found out she was a criminal. She broke into the university and stole a canister of nerve gas, was going to sell it to the highest bidder.”
“You remember?” Jim asked, his voice husky as the words seemed to dry up in his throat. That incident had been the beginning of the end for him and Blair. Once Alex had put that plan of hers into action it had been like a runaway train with a full head of steam, stampeding over anyone in its path, almost killing Blair and destroying Jim and Blair’s shakily rebuilt friendship.
Blair nodded. “Yeah, she drowned me. I guess getting murdered is something you don’t forget for long.” He shuddered. “Even if I did come back from the dead.” He looked searchingly at Jim. “You blamed yourself for what happened, didn’t you?”
“Because I kicked you out of the loft, left you vulnerable to her.”
“But you brought me back. You used our spirit animals.”
“Yeah,” Jim said softly, his voice barely above a whisper, guilt twisting inside him again, “and then a few months later I turned on you again, accused you of selling my story, my life to a publisher for a chance at the brass ring.”
“You thought I’d betrayed you,” Blair replied, his own voice equally quiet. “You’ve had plenty of reasons not to trust people over your lifetime. Your dad, your brother, your commanding officer in Peru…”
“Maybe,” Jim said bitterly, “but then I found a true friend that I should have known I could trust and instead I tarred you with the same brush and threw you out of my life.”
“That last night I was at the loft, we argued about me not wanting to join the police force, didn’t we?” Blair asked. “I remember some of it now. You were really angry but so was I and I stormed out to cool off, planned on coming back and trying to patch things up with you…”
“I got it in my head that you turning down the offer of becoming my official partner just proved that it was all about the Sentinel thing for you. That once I had my senses mostly under my control, once you knew you couldn’t use everything that had happened for your thesis or for a book deal that you wanted to just cut and run, leave it all behind, go on and find something else that piqued your interest.”
“I wouldn’t have, you know,” Blair replied. “I wanted to keep working with you. I think I just knew I couldn’t do it as a cop.”
“But I refused to let you tell me that,” Jim said. “And so you left and sometime after that you ran into Olsen.” He let out a shaky breath. “I left you vulnerable to Alex and she killed you and then once I had you back, I did it again. Left you vulnerable to that bottom feeding opportunist, Olsen, and he almost killed you too.”
“Oh man, Jim, I’m a big boy. What happened with Olsen wasn’t your fault any more than what happened with Alex was. It was mine. I was so angry with you that I wasn’t thinking clearly and I walked straight into Olsen’s trap. He’d obviously seen me on the news, knew I’d worked with you and he stopped me in the street that night, said he had sensory problems, wanted to know if I could help. You’d made it pretty clear you didn’t need me as a guide anymore and I did exactly the same thing I’d done with Alex. Jumped in with both feet at the mere idea of finding another Sentinel, of still being useful to someone.”
“But he wasn’t a Sentinel?” Jim asked though he was pretty sure of the answer.
“No. A lot of what happened in those first months or years with him are still pretty jumbled and I’m not sure how much is real and how much my mind’s contrived to fill in the blanks. He kept me drugged for a long time, used punishment along with the drugs and sensory deprivation to make me docile enough that he could convince me there was nothing left in the world outside his door for me anymore.”
“Did he rape you?” Jim asked softly.
Blair flushed. “I tried to stop him but it only made him hurt me more so eventually I just realized he was right, that no one was looking for me, that there wasn’t anything left for me out there and that what was happening was my lot in life.” He shrugged. “Maybe I thought it was no more than I deserved for running out on you.”
“So what happened the night he was killed? Do you remember that?”
“You mean the night I killed him,” Blair corrected flatly. “Bits and pieces. I remember him bringing the boy in and the kid was screaming. Olsen wanted to tie him up so he could drug him. I guess he was tired of me, wanted someone younger, more of a challenge once he’d beaten me down to a mere cypher. He told me to get the knife from the kitchen. He was going to threaten the boy with it, make him quiet down but something snapped when I saw how scared that kid was. Memories flooded in. They were muddled up and not really clear but I recognized something in the boy.”
“He was you when Olsen first brought you there?” Jim suggested and Blair nodded. “Yeah but it wasn’t too late for him yet. He still had people looking for him.”
“So did you,” Jim said.
“But I didn’t know that,” Blair replied with a small smile. “I just knew that I had to make sure Daniel got back to whoever still cared about him.”
“I hate to say I’m glad about someone being killed but I can’t be sorry about what you did,” Jim said. “It was because of what you did that meant both Daniel and you both got to go home.” He stood up and stretched, glanced at his watch. “You about ready to go home properly. There’s a friend of mine, a therapist, who I think could really help you now you’ve managed to breach that wall in your memory. You still willing to talk to the DA?”
Blair nodded and stood up. “I’m ready.” He walked across and stood in front of Jim then reached out and hugged Jim tightly. “Thank you,” he said through a voice that sounded tight with unshed tears, “for not giving up on me and for bringing me home.”
Jim swallowed down his own tears. “Anytime, Chief,” he said, "but let’s make a pact, hey?” He held Blair away from him and fixed him with a steady gaze. “No more trust issues between us. Next time it sounds like I’m going there you have my permission to knock some sense into me, okay?”
“Yeah, okay, Jim, okay. Let’s go home, man. I’ve got a whole bunch of old friends to get to know again and a new life just beginning.”